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Author Notes:

We continue the notices that Liz Harrison knows that I have this story. She began it and has handed the reins over to me.

Wishful Thinking

Chapter 4 — All the King’s Men

"Again," Charlie demanded, watching the teen without expression, and Harry stared at him.

"Again?" he repeated. "But I’ve done a hundred push-ups already!"

"You need to learn to keep going when you’re exhausted," Charlie pointed out. "You’re exhausted now. Again."

Grunting angrily, Harry dropped down onto the floor again and began push-up number one-hundred-and-one. But when he was on number one-hundred-and-seven, a man appeared outside the window, and Charlie crossed the room to let his father, disguised as Snape, into the room.

The face and body of Severus Snape stepped through the window and smiled brightly at Arthur Weasley’s son. And staring up at him, Harry found himself saying something he never thought he’d say to Severus Snape’s face.

"Thank you!" he gasped, throwing himself at Arthur, and he wrapped his arms around the man’s legs. As he did so, he snorted in amusement — Snape had extremely skinny legs, and he highly doubted the man was on any sort of exercise program.

"You’ll be doing another hundred when he leaves, Potter," Charlie grinned, "don’t go getting complacent on me."

"Complacent? Me?" Harry grinned innocently before moving to sit on his bed. "Okay. What are we doing today?"

"More practice," Arthur smiled, and Harry bit back a shudder — Snape had nasty teeth. "Sit down, Charlie, you need to learn Occlumency too…"

"Joy," the second-eldest Weasley son muttered, and he settled himself cross-legged on Harry’s bed.

"It’s not that bad, Charles," Arthur tried to soothe his son.

"Unless you’re learning it from Snape."

Arthur frowned. "Snape is not very gifted at subtlety in the mind arts. His idea of Legilimency is basically what amounts to mind-rape."

"Does he do that to you, too?" Harry asked, staring at him in shock, and Arthur smiled wryly.

"How do you think I learned it so fast?" he asked. "I’ve gone for two hours daily and he says I only need about ten more sessions before I’ll be done. I had to figure out how to use Legilimency subtly on my own."

"Am I going to learn Legilimency?" Harry asked, frowning.

"Perhaps," Arthur murmured. "Now, Charlie, you need to clear your mind entirely. Even out your breathing and focus on that. In and out, in and out. When you feel a tingling in your mind, followed by the sensation of a presence, I need you to reach out to that presence within your mind and wrap it in everyday memories which you’re perfectly comfortable with everyone seeing. Then slowly and carefully push the presence out. Got that?"

Charlie nodded and shifted on the bed, trying to concentrate on his breathing. Smiling, Arthur watched him for a moment before turning to Harry. "Right, then," he said cheerfully. "Ready? Legilimens!"


They floo’d back to Grimmauld Place after thanking Flitwick for his help. With a hand on Hermione’s arm, Remus led her up the stairs to Sirius’s bedroom and shut the door behind them. The second he let the witch go, she walked over to Sirius’s bed and fell onto it with a thud, her head in her hands.

"I don’t understand," she murmured as Remus perched next to her. "How could he do this to Harry? How could he?"

"There must be a reason," Remus replied. "Dumbledore has evidently done some very stupid, cruel things, Hermione — and likely many more we don’t know of — but there’s always been a reason, even if it’s been a horrid one."

"The Slytherins say he’s going senile," Hermione muttered viciously. "That’s a reason."

"It’s a possibility," Remus frowned, "but I doubt it. No, there’s something more here."

"Does it matter?" Hermione asked, springing up. "Who cares why he did it? Harry needs his parents!"

"I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to find them, Hermione!" Remus said angrily, his eyes flashing. "James was my best friend, and Lily was my sister! I haven’t seen them in fifteen years, and I thought they were dead! Sirius died thinking they were dead! I can’t imagine how he feels now… He used to console himself with the knowledge that he’d see them again someday, and now he’s dead, and he—"

The Marauder cut himself off and swallowed, stricken. "I’m sorry," he said in a low voice. "I seem to be flying off the handle rather quickly these days."

"No," Hermione patted his arm nervously. "I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply—"

"I know," Remus smiled. "It’s all right, Hermione."

She smiled slightly before flopping back down on the bed. "So, what do we do now?"

"Call the others together," Remus replied instantly. "An emergency meeting."

"Of the whole Order?" Hermione asked, shocked.

"No," Remus replied, smiling. "Of the Order’s rebels. I just hope I can hold Tonks back — she’s come to view Harry as a little brother. Kingsley and Moody see him as their protégé, and you know how the Weasleys view Harry. It should be interesting," Remus smiled wolfishly.

"How are we going to tell Harry?" Hermione asked quietly, and Remus’s smile disappeared.


In Auror headquarters, Tonks’ head jerked up and she hissed as the amulet around her neck burned. Bill had picked the amulets up the day before to serve as signals for when the Order’s rebels needed to be called, but weren’t in a position to safely speak. Looking around, she saw Kingsley come out of his office, massaging his chest with a frown. The two immediately made their way to Amelia Bones’ office, got sick leave due to a "mutual friend’s accident" and Apparated to Grimmauld Place.

Neither one wanted to know why they were being called.


In the back of a small shop in Diagon Alley, Fred yelped as the amulet burned, dropping the tray of potions ingredients to the floor. George came skidding into the room, slipping on the eye of newt, and their eyes met. They Apparated away, hoping desperately that Harry was all right.


In a small room in Gringotts, Bill’s head jerked up and he shot to his feet, racing to his supervisor’s desk. He had Apparated away before he’d even finished explaining to the man that he had to go.


Moody jerked to his feet beneath Harry’s window, his wand raised instantly. He knew there was no trouble at the house — no one had gotten past him — so it must have been Lupin, calling them all to Grimmauld Place. With a scowl, he pulled out his mirror and called for Fletcher. "Relieve me," he ordered when the drunken man’s face appeared, and Fletcher nodded dumbly. His scowl darkening, Moody quickly lifted the disillusionment charm he’d placed on himself upon his arrival at Privet Drive, and not a moment later, Fletcher appeared at Moody’s side. The veteran ex-auror glared at the drunk as he settled in beneath Harry’s window, a bottle of Firewhiskey cradled in his hands. He had no choice. Fletcher was the only one who wouldn’t report to Dumbledore that he’d been called in on Moody’s shift.

The battle-scarred man disappeared with a swish of his cloak.


In Harry’s room, Charlie frowned as the amulet began to burn. He knew Harry wasn’t in danger — he’d been scanning the area every ten minutes, and with Moody there moments before, he knew no one had gotten in — so it must have been Remus calling them all. He wished he could go — whatever it was, it would have to be big. Remus wouldn’t risk alerting Dumbledore to their rebellion over a minor issue. But his orders were clear. He was to stay with Harry until the poor boy could leave the godforsaken shack he’d been dumped into.

Sighing, Charlie looked over at Harry, who was on his one-hundredth chin-up, using a conjured bar. "Again," he ordered shortly.

Harry groaned, hanging limply from the bar.


"What’s she doing here?" Moody growled immediately as he shut the door behind himself. Hermione sat up from where she’d been sprawled on the floor reading Sirius’s notes and glared at Moody, looking extremely affronted. "Isn’t she the stickler for the rules? She’ll probably run off to Dumbledore before the night’s out."

"I assure you," Remus replied evenly, "Hermione is on Harry’s side."

"Thank you, Remus," Hermione said icily, still glaring at Moody. "I don’t think Sirius ever figured it out, by the way — there’s nothing in here that could help us."

"It was a long-shot," Remus agreed. "He would have told Harry immediately if he had found out."

"Sirius would have told Harry what immediately?" Tonks asked, looking slightly frightened. "What was a long-shot?"

Remus winced, and he and Hermione shared a concerned look. "Why don’t you sit down, Tonks?" he asked nervously, and immediately, Arthur, Bill, Fred and George settled on the floor, eyeing Remus and Hermione with trepidation. Following their lead, Kingsley shrugged and sat on the edge of Sirius’s bed, and Moody stumped over to the desk chair.

"I don’t need to sit down," Tonks replied, her voice rising in pitch. "I need to know what it is you called us here f—"

"Harry’s parents are alive," Hermione said immediately.

A stunned silence followed and Remus spun to face Hermione, throwing up his hands in exasperation. "What happened to easing them in to it?"

"I got impatient," Hermione replied absently, turning back to Sirius’s notebooks.

"They’re alive!" Tonks shrieked, her hair quickly turning from powder-blue to green to red to purple and then neon blue. "How?"

"People can’t come back to life," Bill muttered. "They just can’t. How—?"

"They didn’t," Remus murmured softly. "We think they never died."

"But — why would Dumbledore—?" Kingsley began, staring at Remus. "Why would he do this? What could be gained from Harry thinking he’s an orphan?"

"We don’t know," Hermione began, but Remus cut in quickly.

"Control," he said angrily. "With his parents gone, Harry was left at the Dursleys by Dumbledore, so every time Dumbledore either gets Harry or sends someone to get him, he’s rescuing the boy. And Harry will look to Dumbledore and see someone to trust implicitly, to follow anywhere."

"We need to find them," Arthur said hurriedly. "We need to find them, and we need to get Harry out of that house."

"Gringotts might be able to help," Bill offered quickly. "They can usually track people down well."

"And I’ve found an amazing number of books on tracking charms," Hermione added. "We just need the right one…."

"Right now, Hermione, we need to get you back to the Burrow," Arthur tiredly rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Floo back to the Burrow, all right? Molly will have a conniption if you’re not back in time for supper."

Hermione hesitated, turning to look at Remus, but he smiled in reassurance. "We’ll get you tomorrow," he said calmly, "and tell Molly you’re helping on a research project. Don’t worry too much about Harry; he’s lasted fifteen years, he’ll make it a few more days."

Hermione sighed but nodded in acceptance before turning and walking from the room. The others waited in silence until they heard her call out, "The Burrow!" before speaking again.

"How do we tell Potter?" Moody asked, and for once, both his eyes were trained on the person he was addressing.

Remus closed his eyes. "I don’t know."


Tonks took the next day off of work to help Remus and Hermione search for clues on how to find Harry’s parents. Despite her irritation, after an hour of searching, Hermione agreed to go back to looking through Sirius’s records, in search of anything else Dumbledore may have done. Their efforts were largely futile, for after an entire day of searching, they had found nothing. Hermione had been sent back to the Burrow ten minutes before and Remus and Tonks were collapsed on a downstairs couch, staring absently at the walls.

"Are you sure we should really be looking for them?"

Blinking, Remus sat up and stared at Tonks in confusion. Immediately, the now canary-yellow-haired witch bounced to her feet and began pacing the length of the room. "What?" Eyeing the witch warily, Remus got to his feet, wondering if he was going to have to spell her into silence. Once Tonks got started…

"I mean, we don’t know what they’re like now."

"Tonks, they’re Lily and James and they’re alive," Remus said shortly. "That’s all I need to know."

"But we don’t know where they are. Or what they’re like. What if they did know you and Harry were alive and just don’t want to be near you? What if they’ve gone crazy, being alone for so long? What if…"


"Or what if they’re under the Imperius Curse, and the first second they’re near Harry, they kill him?"


"Or what if they kill us?"

"Tonks, shut up."

"Or what if they’ve gotten so used to seclusion, they’re afraid of us?"


"What if they've gone all Lord of the Flies on us and have started their own society and are all 'Kill the interlopers!' on us when we get there?"

Blinking in bemusement, Remus stared at her. "You’ve read Muggle books?"

"My father is Muggleborn," she reminded him, and Remus nodded. "They could have turned cannibalistic and killed each other. They could be eating house-elves for food. They could—"

Remus couldn’t stand it anymore. Closing his eyes, he rubbed his forehead as Tonks rambled on. Finally, he grabbed her around the waist — Tonks let out a startled squeak — and he kissed her.

When he drew back, Tonks blinked up at him. "Oh, all right then," she said softly, and smirking slightly, Remus leaned down again —

"Hey, wait a minute!" she shouted, and he jumped back, hands over his ears, and winced. "You did that just to shut me up!"

"Er…" Remus muttered, doing his best to look innocent.

"Didn’t you?" Tonks demanded, glaring at him.

"Well..." he gulped, "that wasn’t… wasn’t the only reason."


Remus cringed — but what the hell, he was a Marauder, wasn’t he? "It worked quite nicely," he pointed out, smirking at her.

Tonks stared at him. Eyes flashing, she raised her wand, and Remus took a step back, hands in the air.

"Don’t hurt me," he pleaded, and Tonks smiled evilly. With a wave of her wand, she conjured up a steel pan, brandishing it in his direction.

Remus did what any smart man would do.

He ran.

Tonks chased him up the stairs, shouting obscenities, and several times, she nearly clipped his ears with the pan. Ducking, Remus raced to his room, but when he went to slam the door, Tonks followed him in. Eyeing him angrily, she slammed his door shut and locked it with a spell, then tossed the pan aside.

Remus stared at her, and then smiled. "Oh," he said, watching her, "all right then."


It was nearing nine o’clock when a furious scream sounded throughout the house.

"BOY!" Vernon Dursley thundered up the stairs and Charlie spun around, wand out, to face the door. Distantly, he wondered what was wrong with the man this time… and distantly, he hoped that Dursley would give him just one reason to —

The door slammed open and Harry jumped, startled, as the book he’d been soundlessly levitating fell to the floor. Dursley stared as the book fell before shaking his head and proceeding with his tirade.

"Our next door neighbors saw a drunken bum leaning against our house all afternoon yesterday!" Vernon shouted. "What do you have to say about that, boy? He’s one of you, isn’t he?"

Charlie closed his eyes. Damn you, Fletcher, he thought angrily, how could you have forgotten to disillusion yourself?

"I don’t know what you’re talking about," Harry said after a moment, staring at his uncle. "It’s not my fault some drunk wandered off the streets into the yard—"

"You have no right to keep bringing strangers in here, boy!" Vernon screamed. "This is my house, you follow my rules!" The man’s face was steadily turning purple. "After all we’ve done for you, boy!" he spat. "We fed you, clothed you, provided for you over our own son’s needs—"

And after fifteen years of abuse, Harry finally broke.

"That’s right, your house!" he shouted back. "Your money, your family! What’s mine? Nothing! Do you think I want to be here? What have you given me besides hatred and belittlement? A cupboard? Table scraps, like I’m some hated stray you keep just to look good for the neighbors? Dudley’s leftover rags? WHAT!" he roared, and Dursley drew back, startled even as Charlie silently cheered.

"You hated me!" Harry screamed. "Ever since I was a baby, you’ve hated me for something that isn’t my fault! How dare you accuse me of being ungrateful, you Nazi! How dare you!

"I’m forced back here every summer by a man who claims I’ll be safe here! I’VE NEVER BEEN SAFE ANYWHERE! And I’m supposed to call this home? I HAVE NO HOME!"

A sudden flash of light quelled Harry’s rage, confusing him. Blinking, he and Vernon both looked up, startled. Cursing, Charlie ran to the window.

"Oh, hell," he muttered. "Hellfire and dalmatians!" Turning from the window, he ran to Vernon’s side.

"Get your wife and kid and get out of here, Dursley," he ordered as he shoved Vernon out the door. "The wards are coming down."

"What?" the large man spat, paling. "Why?"

"Because you were so cruel and petty that you drove your nephew away," Charlie replied tersely, and he slammed the door in Vernon’s face.

"Get your trunk out, Harry, now," he ordered.

Harry raced to comply, throwing the trunk open. Shaking, he threw himself under his bed and pulled up the loose floorboard, and Charlie quickly summoned everything stored under it, directing it into Harry’s trunk. With a half-dozen more waves of his wand, Charlie summoned the remainder of Harry’s possessions before throwing the window open.

"Come on, Harry, let’s go!" he called as Harry ran to his desk and picked up Hedwig’s cage, the owl hooting madly all the while. With a sad smile, Harry reached down and picked up a single photograph from the surface of his desk, and his parents smiled up at him from the photo.

"Come on!" Charlie repeated, and he grabbed Harry’s arm, dragging him to the window. He shoved Harry through onto the floating platform and Kingsley, standing under the window, lowered it quickly, helping Harry off when it landed. He levitated the platform back up and Charlie jumped onto it, Harry’s trunk in hand, and plummeted quickly to the ground.

"Move, move, move!" Kingsley shouted as he spelled the window shut, and overhead, a sonic booming sounded. "They’re gonna crash!"

"What—?" Harry began, frightened, but Charlie pushed him along.

"No time, just go!"

The group raced to the street, Hedwig still hooting frantically, as the smell of smoke wafted through the street. Turning back, Harry gazed up at the house, Charlie holding his arm roughly in a tight grip.

The wards were sparkling over the house, brightly-colored white and red lights flying across and over the roof. Everywhere they touched the house, sparks sprung up, and flames licked at every window. Harry watched in horror, Hedwig stilling by his side, the flames reflecting in her frightened amber eyes. Anxiously, Hedwig tried to push her head through the cage to get to her friend, and, after a few minutes, succeeded in opening the latch with her foot, flying out to land on Harry’s shoulder.

She butted her head against his and rubbed against his cheek, hooting softly as Harry stared blankly at the burning house.

"Get him out of here," Kingsley muttered roughly to Charlie, who nodded mutely. "I’ll see if there are any survivors."

His hands shaking slightly, Charlie led Harry away, pulling him along faster as the boy tried to look back. As they walked, Hedwig turned on Harry’s shoulder to gaze back at the burning house where her beloved friend had suffered so much.

Ruffling her feathers, Hedwig hooted once in satisfaction, and turned back to what mattered.


Hermione perched precariously on the arm of Harry’s chair, speaking to him in low, soothing tones. She had been trying for half an hour to get through to him, to no avail. Across the room, Neville, Ginny and Luna watched sadly, and Ron paced across the floor, staring out the door as he walked.

Kingsley had searched the house only to find the Dursleys already dead, killed by unknown means. He’d returned to Grimmauld Place to tell Harry, wincing on every third word. The black-haired boy had immediately collapsed. Shaking, he curled up in an armchair in the living room of Grimmauld Place and refused to move or speak to anyone at all.

Ron stopped by Neville’s chair, running a hand nervously through his hair. "Dumbledore’s gonna be here soon," he muttered, and Neville nodded shortly. "We need to keep him away from—"

Not a moment later, Dumbledore strode through the door, a livid Remus on his heels. "Don’t you dare—" Remus began, glaring at the man, but Dumbledore ignored him, coming to a stop directly in front of Harry’s chair. He looked down at Harry, who hesitantly raised his gaze to meet the headmaster’s, and waved his wand, conjuring a chintz armchair that he immediately sat in. Harry’s eyes slid back to the floor and he curled up into himself slightly, leaning his head against Hermione’s arm.

A long, tense silence followed, in which Hermione, Remus, Ron and Neville all glared at Dumbledore, Luna stared off into space, and Ginny shifted nervously. As they sat there, not speaking, Arthur, Moody, Kingsley and Tonks came through the door, followed by Charlie leading the remainder of his family. Still staring steadily at Dumbledore, Remus sat on the arm of a chair near both Harry’s and Dumbledore’s, poised to spring at a moment’s notice.

The door finally closed, and Dumbledore spoke. "I am very disappointed in you, Harry," he said softly.

A hiss emanated from Remus and the werewolf shot to his feet, spinning on his heel and striding out of the room, his robes swirling at his ankles. Glancing after Remus with a startled expression, Dumbledore paused before continuing, his composure regained once more.

"You had only to remain at your relatives for one more summer after this one, Harry, and I am at a loss as to why that task was beyond your cap—"

"No, you’re not," Ginny spat, even as Hermione’s hand twitched. His eyes latching on to the sight, Ron grinned. Oh, what he wouldn’t give to see that…. "You know exactly why that was beyond his capabilities, or need I remind you that my brothers had to rescue him from a literal jail cell the summer before my first year?"

"And yet," Dumbledore said swiftly, peering at Ginny over his half-moon glasses, "rather than be the… ahem, bigger man, Harry succumbed to their pettiness and shouted back. And now, my boy, your only relatives have died. I confess myself disappointed," he sighed.

Harry froze. Lifting his head from Hermione’s arm, he gazed at Dumbledore with fiery eyes.

"So did Voldemort," he said, his face expressionless.

The room stilled. Blinking, all the color draining from his face, Dumbledore stared at Harry. "What—?"

"So did Voldemort," Harry repeated. "He confessed himself disappointed with his minions, too. After he was resurrected…. Or remade, whatever you want to call it."

The headmaster swallowed nervously. Trying to regain his ground, he began, "I fail to see what—"

But Remus had returned, and he strode back into the room, eyes flashing, a heavy tome held in one hand. With a wave of his wand, he conjured a small coffee table before Dumbledore and slammed the book down on it, open to a page midway through the tome. "Read it," he hissed, and Dumbledore gazed at the book in trepidation.

"I really don’t see—"

Taking a step closer, Remus turned his wand on the headmaster. "Read it," he repeated, and Dumbledore picked up the book with shaking hands.

"‘Ara Sanguinis, The Ritual of Protection by Blood, is a warding ritual dependent on a lack of animosity between the subjects of the ritual. The wards based on Ara Sanguinis degrade by a minute amount at every instance of animosity within its bounds. Nothing will destroy the wards save either a crime committed by the protector against the Protected One, though the wards will not fully fall until the crime is confirmed aloud by the Protected One, or a spoken declaration by the Protected One that he can no longer find his home in the protected place. The validity of this statement is tested by the wards, which are marginally sentient,’" Dumbledore swallowed, "‘before the wards will truly collapse. If the ritual of Ara Sanguinis finds, in testing the protectors, that they have committed grievous crimes against the Protected One, it will eradicate their home, and, if possible, them. This phenomena is known as Blood’s Judgment, and has only occurred two separate times in recorded history.’"

A stunned silence followed as Dumbledore’s voice trailed off.

"This was your fault and theirs, not Harry’s," Remus said, his eyes flashing. "Your wards, your inability to understand that those people hated him are what killed the Dursleys. Don’t you dare try to lay the blame for that on Harry’s shoulders."

"I—" Dumbledore began, and tears sparkled in his eyes. "I didn’t know…."

"And I don’t care," Remus replied coldly. "That was despicable of you, Albus. Get out."

Dumbledore stared.

"You heard me, old man. As a trusted friend and mentor of the head of House Potter, I am ordering you to leave this house. Get out, now, and don’t come back until you’re invited back. You will hold all Order meetings at Hogwarts until further notice."

The headmaster drew back, startled, and gazed around the room. Finding no sympathetic faces, he turned to Harry, tears sparkling in his eyes. The teen was curled up in the armchair again, leaning heavily on Hermione, who looked murderous. "My boy," Dumbledore began, "I’m so—"

"LEAVE!" Remus bellowed, and Dumbledore fled.

The front door slammed behind the headmaster, and Harry flinched. The anger fading from his face, Remus walked over to Harry and Hermione. "Budge up," he said with a gentle smile, and Harry shifted. Sighing tiredly, Remus threw himself into the chair beside Harry, placing a hand on his back. "We know better," he said simply, and Harry tried to smile.

Ron, Neville, Luna and Ginny crossed the room to sit at the foot of the chair as Arthur ushered the others from the room, his arms around his weeping wife. A moment later, Remus followed, glancing back at Harry with tears sparkling in his eyes, and he smiled when Ron took his seat beside Harry.


Within the confines of Hogwarts, Dumbledore wandered wearily to his private quarters. He muttered the password in a choked voice before walking through the opening that appeared, pulling off his hat and throwing it to the floor.

Without speaking, he turned into a small room by his sitting room, pushing the door open hesitantly. A wave of his wand ignited the torches along the walls and Dumbledore stopped in the center of the room.

He gazed steadily at the hundreds of photos lining the walls, his eyes coming to rest on one face, and two that were missing.

Sirius, Lily and James.

Surrounded by the dead and the betrayed, he fell to the floor and wept.

He would have to tell Harry.

But he didn’t know how.


"We have to tell him," Tonks murmured in a low voice, and Remus nodded.

"I just… he’s already been through enough today—"

"He needs to know," Arthur pointed out. "And who knows? It might actually help him, to give him news like this after—"

"Right," Remus nodded again. "Okay. I—"

Tonks smiled, touching his arm gently in reassurance. "We’ll go with you," she said softly, and, taking his hand, she led him into the parlor, where Harry and his friends still sat.

"Harry?" Arthur spoke up nervously. "We need to speak with you. No, no, stay," Arthur waved the others back into their seats as they moved to get up. "He’ll just tell you later anyway, and you—" he stopped, swallowing, "you should be here for this."

Harry gazed at the Order members with an expression of dawning horror.

"What is it?" he asked shakily, and Remus winced. "Who’s died now? TELL ME!"


"Lily, we’ve been over this a thousand times," James said wearily, brushing his hair back out of his face. "He’s dead."

"He’s not!" Lily insisted, pacing back and forth across the nursery. "I can still feel him! And I know you can, too," she added stubbornly.

James sighed, tears prickling at the back of his eyes. "Lils, it’s just wishful—"

"It’s not!" She swung around, glaring at him, but when she saw his face, her eyes softened, and she moved to kneel before him, holding his free hand gently in hers. "We knew the bonding ritual would have this effect," she said in a low, hurried voice. "We knew we’d be able to feel him when he was in a horrible emotional state. And we’ve searched for him through the bond hundreds of times and felt him when we did. Why can’t you believe me? It’s stronger than ever right now!"

James looked away, his throat dry.

"In 1992," she continued, "the end of his first year, we felt him. He was in danger, James, you know he was! We both woke up out of a deep sleep and you were crying! You were calling for him!"

"It was a dream," he insisted.

"It wasn’t," Lily replied. "James, we had nothing left to live for, which is why I went along with Dumbledore when he told us to disappear. Voldemort was gone. There was nothing left to fight, and we had little left to fight for. He caught us at the worst possible moment, when we were still vulnerable. But what if Harry’s still out there somewhere?"

A long silence followed. Finally, James said slowly, "When we woke up the night — the night he died," he hesitated, his breath shallow, "I didn’t feel like anything was missing at all until Dumbledore said — the bond, it should have told us right away. But it didn’t."

"I know," she whispered. "James, I’ve been trying to convince you of this for nearly fifteen years, and I’ve hurt you every time. I never meant to. But… the prophecy, James, Dumbledore hesitated. And the binding — we can feel him, James, and that’s not wishful thinking, no matter what you say. And what about the scars?"

Slowly, she lifted his hand and traced the line left by the bonding ritual all those years ago. "If the bond had failed, this would have faded," she said softly, and James swallowed.

"Fine," he said slowly, "fine. I’ll check. I’ll go find Andromeda or Alice and Frank…"

"And a newspaper, perhaps?" Lily asked, her lips twisting in a smile. "It’d be nice to read the news after nine years."

"And a newspaper," he agreed, standing. "Come on, Lils."

She rose, following him from the nursery and down to the front door. James walked outside and she stepped through after him, feeling an odd mix of anticipation and dread. Silently, she watched as James walked toward the gate at the end of the driveway and stood before the gate nervously.

They hadn’t gotten further than this since 1986, when they’d returned to England for the first time since the Halloween of 1981.

Smiling at him in encouragement, Lily moved to stand next to James, fingering her wand nervously. He took a deep breath and stepped forward, opening the gate and walking through it — and in the same instant, Lily raised her wand, casting dozens of charms within an interval of less than ten seconds…

There was a soft flash of light and James blinked, confused. Turning slowly, he glanced back at Lily.

"Come on, Lils!" he called, his face lighting up when he saw her. "Let’s go for a walk!"

She stared at him. "What are you doing out here, James?" she asked, hoping he would —

"I told you, didn’t I?" James replied, his brow furrowed. "Going for a walk. What are you doing out here?"

Lily sighed, and carefully, she gestured to her husband to return. She’d have to start all over again —

— but no. The second James stepped back through the gate, his face twisted with rage and tears sprang to his eyes again.

"Dumbledore," he hissed, and Lily nodded.

Biting back a scream of frustration, she raised her wand, waving it in several complicated motions. After a moment, she nodded again. "It’s definitely his work," she confirmed. "He must have done it in 1986, when he escorted us here. Remember, when we came back from Ireland? We went to Hogwarts — heavily hooded, of course, so as not to be bothered — and he sent us here. He brought us here. I never questioned it. It’s odd," she frowned, "you’ve never remembered everything when you came back inside the gate before…."

"Why would he keep us here?" James demanded, and Lily’s gaze rose slowly to meet his, her emerald eyes shining in an odd mix of fury and joy.

"Because Harry’s alive," she replied, "and we were in Dumbledore’s way."

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